During and after the Civil War, thousands of newly liberated African Americans left the South and migrated to Iowa and other Midwestern places. Many of those migrants had experienced both enslavement and military service with the Union Army. This presentation will share the inspiring personal stories of African American Civil War veterans who settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after the war. It traces their life stories from bondage to liberation to military service to migration, focusing on veterans’ struggles to secure freedom, citizenship rights, expanded opportunities for themselves and their families, and recognition of the critical role blacks played in ending slavery and winning the Civil War. The presentation will highlight present-day historical sites and markers in Cedar Rapids where this important history happened and can still be commemorated. Documenting the lives of these veterans not only recovers their important individual stories and the often-overlooked nineteenth-century African American history of Cedar Rapids, it also helps us to better understand the broader stories of enslavement, liberation, the Civil War, and life in Jim Crow America.
This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About the Speaker
Dr. Brie Swenson Arnold is William P. and Gayle S. Whipple Associate Professor of History at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At Coe, she teaches courses on early American, Civil War, African American, women’s, and public history. She received her BA in History, English Literature, and French from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and her MA and PhD in American History from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests center on nineteenth-century race and gender, with particular emphasis on the popular print and political cultures of the Civil War era and the migration of African Americans to the Upper Midwest after the Civil War. She has presented research at many professional conferences, including the annual meetings of the Organization of American Historians, the Society of Civil War Historians, the American Historical Association, the Western History Association, and the National Council on Public History. Some of her recent scholarly publications include “’To Inflame the Mind of the North’: Slavery Politics and the Sexualized Violence of Bleeding Kansas” (Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 2015) and “An Opportunity to Challenge the ‘Color Line’: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Women’s Labor Activism in Late Nineteenth-Century Cedar Rapids, Iowa” (Annals of Iowa, 2015)—which was the recipient of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s 2016 Throne-Aldrich Award (for the most significant article on Iowa history published in a professional history journal in 2015) and the Midwestern History Association’s 2016 Dorothy Schwieder Prize (for the best article on Midwestern history published in 2015). In addition to research and teaching, Brie is an active public historian who collaborates with museums, libraries, schools, and other community organizations to develop exhibits, tours, and presentations. Some of her most recent public history work includes serving as an advisory committee member for the “Driven By Hope: African American Migration to Iowa, 1865-1930” exhibition at the African American Museum of Iowa and working on the “History Happened Here” historical markers project in collaboration with the City of Cedar Rapids, the African American Museum, the History Center, and dozens of other community partners. (She is also the very proud former professor of one of Coe’s most outstanding history alums, Sean Donaldson. ☺)
About the Series:
Humanities Iowa has generously funded another series of presentations from visiting historians, professors, and lecturers. This year’s series will be tied to our current exhibit, Driven By Hope, which focuses on African American migration following the Civil War. The presentations are between February and July. Topics will focus on responses to migration – music, fashion, food, social responses, legal responses, and even some discussion on current migration and immigration issues. Be sure to join us for these free, engaging, and thought-provoking presentations!